What Secret Message Is Hidden In Your Writing?

    secret message - man writing

    I spent some time in the last few days studying Steve Pavlina‘s articles. As I’m sure you all know, he’s a phenomenally successful blogger. His book Personal Development for Smart People was a bestseller.

    Steve Pavlina’s work is interesting from many different points of view. His writing is both punchy and elegant; his articles are thoughtful and well researched. Most of all, he’s a shining example of someone who writes with passion.

    My interest was piqued by an indefinable quality that shines through all his articles. It’s a key aspect of writing: the subliminal message hidden within words.

    The hidden message is one of the main reasons why some writers are successful, and others are not.

    Let’s take Steve Pavlina. The message reflected in each article is something like this: Hey, let’s really crank up our life!

    What’s the secret message in your writing?

    That’s an important question. Because if you know what your message is, you can change it.

    I had a look at my blog at my other blog Goodlife Zen to find what my secret message is. I think it’s something like this: Let’s sit down together and talk about some fascinating aspects of life. I immediately spotted that the follow-on,  …and see how that knowledge can transform you, is missing. Ouch!

    Once you understand what your message is, you can change it.

    But that change is fundamental, and you need to approach it with care. Think of that change in terms of sailing: it’s not about repainting your boat, or changing tack. Changing your secret message means changing your destination.

    What’s the secret message in your writing?
    Do you want to change it? If so, how?

    It’s fun to decode the hidden message of successful blogs. How do you see Leo’s secret message at Zen Habits?

    Please share your ideas and discoveries about secret messages in the comments.

    About the author

      Mary Jaksch

      Mary Jaksch is best known for her exceptional training for writers at WritetoDone.com and for her cutting-edge book, Youthful Aging Secrets. In her “spare” time, Mary is also the brains behind GoodlifeZEN.com, a Zen Master, a mother, and a 5th Degree Black Belt.

    • Interesting thoughts — what hides beneath the surface of our words? What kind of resonance is there to them? When we read a secret message are we reading between the lines or reading into the mind? If our words had “body language,” what would they say?

      I think that is why I find Leo so appealing and motivational. His island calmness combined with his sense of community and helping shine through.

      Ouch is right. I do see something I was missing before in my writing — Oh look — another learning experience!

    • Shefaly says:

      Hi. As the 2nd ping back above shows, I mentioned this post as ‘related reading’ today.

      Sometimes that message is revealed through the readers.

      Someone today called me “Ms Most Serious Blogger”. When I wondered why, readers revealed why they think I am a serious writer and mentioned my thoroughly researched and balanced writing on issues of life, work, politics etc. I think “balance” and presenting opposing views, even if they disagree with my own is the strength of my writing. No solutions, just a way of thinking, arguing and presenting points in a debate.

      Just my tuppence.

    • Patricia says:

      Mary Jaksch, I write because I love to write and on days I don’t write I sometimes lie awake half the night, until I figure out I am writing in my head and need to get it down on paper. I write when I am swimming my laps and in the columns of my shopping list for the week and I fill journal after journal. My life goal is to inspire folks to be the best they can be and to live their lives now not in some futuristic time zone – be engaged in living. Writing my blog just makes me happy right to joy, and everyday I go to see if I have any hits and if someone has commented and heard what I write – I talk to my web person to help me design my words so that folks will comment, yes a couple have along the way and I am grateful. I truly need to get paid for what I do, I need to pay off my child’s medical bills (cleft palate repair is not covered by any insurance policy in the USA) so I have the pressure of making some money a living wage after 35 years of volunteering and caregiving and I am hoping by supporting, encouraging and inspiring I can write to my done – in joy. Your post and this website has added to my inspiration.Thank you, I am grateful.

    • I know the meaning of my stories.
      I do agree there may be a sub
      conscious meaning that comes out
      unknown to the writer.

      I am amazed at the armchair psychologists
      and psychiatrists who might feel free to
      comment here.

      If you Try to produce the hidden or
      secret meaning, it is no longer
      secret or hidden; it becomes very

    • I don’t think a blog has to have a secret message. I think it just needs a unique and honest voice. I know that I blog about a variety to topics that are of interest to me. I write with passion and dedication and that is all that really matters.

    • I don’t think there is so much of a hidden message in my blogs – but definately in my fiction writing, both short stories and novels. Probably more “secret” in some than in others. I’m well aware of what I am about, and what I am writing about – but I also think that the message will have more impact if it is “secret”.

      Here’s my dream in life…I write a book that after you finish reading it, you sit still and quiet and think about it for a few minutes. Maybe several times over the next few days. Maybe even discuss it with a few people. And maybe, maybe it will even change how you look at life. Am I really that good? Dunno. But I have read books that affected me that way – and that is what I would like to write. 🙂

    • Jim Manley says:


      I believe all writing has central meaning. That meaning may be hidden – in which case the reader either senses ‘shields up’ or else the piece seems bland or hollow. Or, the writer may not know what he or she really wants to say so, the meaning comes across as confused or arbitrary. But, as Mary’s post says, how you handle your central meaning in what you write can be the determining factor between what “clicks” and what doesn’t.

      If you’re not sure what your meaning is, try reading your stories again. See if you can reduce each one to a single statement. Then, collect all the statements and see what single statement they make. And, it may not be explicity stated. Instead, it might be the unspoken assumption about life all the statements sit on.

      By the way, I like your website. Mine is embarrassingly rough, but it beats no website (revision in process). Good work on yours.

    • Do you think all writing has hidden meanings?

      I write short stories; I may just start looking for
      my hidden meanings.


    • Hey, let’s really crank up our life! 😉

    • Hi Writing Dad!
      That’s an interesting thought.
      What did you find out about yourself through writing?

    • writer dad says:

      Understanding the hidden message in your writing, is the key to understanding who you are. I know myself far better since I started writing.

    • Hi Annie!
      I love the subtitle of your blog: “Life in the Fun Lane” I think it’s one of the best I’ve seen around. Can’t wait to let the WritetoDone gang read your upcoming guest post! It’s really something!
      Stay tuned, everyone…

    • I think sometimes we have to have a little humility in our writing. This doesn’t mean we aren’t writing for ourselves, we always are.

      It means we must take into consideration what we believe will truly be valuable and desirable for our audience – and ramp it up a few notches.

    • Jim Manley says:


      A disease? Yes, all that and more. May we never recover!

      Still, I suspect there’s more inside than passion for word crafting. Maybe part of it is mentoring writers. Your post certainly encouraged me and gave me specific new things I can do.



    • Selina says:

      This article has certainly given me some food for thought, especially as I write on a couple of different topics. So, I need to tease out my various hidden messages!

    • Mary – what a great question. I’ve been trying to figure out how to narrow the focus of my blog because right now my secret message is: Huh? I think part of Leo’s secret message is, “Step-by-step-by-step-by-step to do anything you can dream of.” Of course like Al said, when does a secret become too overt to be useful as a secret? Oooooh, the conundrums!

    • Hi Paul!
      Yes, the direction we have to take…I’ve been wondering about that. Your post triggered the thought that a blog would be pretty punchy if the subtitle of the blog and the hidden message coincided.

      For example, Steve Pavlina’s subtitle is: Personal Development for Smart People. That has the same gutsy, forward-pushing energy as his subliminal message.

      As to keeping people coming to WTD: Tell all your friends to visit us! We’ll throw a party – with free words on the house 🙂

    • Hi Jim!
      Your post made me wonder why I write (perhaps it’s a bit late to wonder about that…)

      I don’t write because I think I have something important to say. I write because I suffer from a disease. And I hope it’s going to be contagious.

      The disease? I love writing 🙂

    • Hi Shay!
      I’m glad you liked the post. I don’t know if I’m the only one, but if I go over and over a post to edit the bumps out of it, I end up not having the faintest idea whether it’s trash or treasure. Anyone else have that experience?

    • @Everyone
      Thanks for the encouragement, guys! I must admit to quaking a little in my overlarge shoes which I am trying to fill in my new role as Chief Editor.

    • Paul Acosta says:

      Golly! Excellent post because it’s really making me think on the direction I should take. Thanks for always being so inspirational and hope you can keep them coming here on WTD!

    • Jim Manley says:


      This is THE essential point for any writing meant to persuade – which is most writing for publication. Why else would any of us go through the trauma of reveling our “inner man” with the absolute guarantee of rejection somewhere along the line? Most of us who choose to write, do so because we believe we have something worth saying. If that “something” doesn’t come through in what we offer, why bother?

      So, good point well stated. Thanks.

    • Shay says:

      This was an excellent read, thank you! It’s given me something to really think about.

    • @Al
      You’ve put your finger on an important spot, Al. The message is ‘secret’ because it goes in under the skin of readers. I think it’s good if we can decode our own message and maybe tweak it –but without trying to manipulate our readers. A delicate balance!

    • Al at 7P says:

      Hi Mary,

      I really like this article. I keep hearing how bloggers need to “find their voice,” but you’re suggesting something more fundamental… that writers need to find their secret message.

      I think it’s pretty profound, but what I’m trying to figure out is, if we know what our secret message is, are we risking of not keeping it secret anymore? What I mean is, if we are using our intellect to blatantly convey this message, it will then seemed forced. It’s almost better to not be aware what our secret message is. Or at least know it, refine it, then not ever think about it again.

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